Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Tour de Cafe

Tour de Café
One of the pleasant elements of the running & cycling communities is the often tacit arrangement to have coffee after meeting for a run, or an event. Consequently, over the last 18 months I have embarked upon a 'Tour de Café' over the Canberra region. It was anchored at 'The Deck' at Regatta Point with Aki, each Friday after the Customs run. Bob and I then found that 'going out' for coffee became a very pleasant method of catching up, a great chance to talk and enjoy each others company, while he attended swim squad, TT's (time trials on the bike), and spin sessions in the evenings, making dinner dates unfeasible. With the return of the PRB to orbit, café hunting has become a serious sport in its own right. I thought it was about time to record a review of those visited to date.
Not too much experience here, although a few examples have been visited. Subway was one of the only places open on the Queen's Birthday weekend. Coffee was very ordinary (i.e. Bad), and expensive. Not recommended.
Sweet Dreams by the Lake: a rather quirky place. The feel of an old fashioned "lolly shop", it has a vertical fish tank and cheap folding chairs inside with a television on in the corner. Good range of coffee, gelato and chocolates, and very pleasant service. Unfortunately, the already limited opening hours are erratically observed and you are likely to find it closed.Rating: Worthy of further investigation.
Gloria Jeans: Aki's favourite. Very pleasant on a cold and sunny afternoon. Curled up on a 'Comfy Chair' (queue Monty Python skit) in the sun is very nice indeed. Coffee is good too. Value is average, and points are lost for there only being paper cups.
McDonald's Drive - Through: Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I have been guilty. The new espresso 'Cafe Pronto' isn't too bad. At around $3, the value is average.
With an aversion to Shopping Malls and especially Food Halls, there is little I can say to recommend any of the plethora of National chain coffee shops that litter the place.
Beppe's Tuscan Kitchen: (Belconnen Markets) The coffee menu was very promising, offering the Special Breakfast Bowl of a double shot of espresso in a bowl, topped with hot milk and served with Italian bread for dunking. A good range of other coffees as well as 'standard' hot chocolate, and thick Italian Hot Chocolate 'so thick that it's served with a spoon'. I poured out a couple of glasses of water, and I appreciated the nice touch of a bowl of lemon slices, and good quality thick paper napkins. So far so good! Ordering was a bit Fawlty Towers, being moved from one counter to another and then a third The coffee arrived in tall glass cups, although it didn't seem too much like a throw-back to the tasteless '80's. In the spoons were a small collection of chocolate 'rocks', small pebbles of irregular shaped chocolate bits covered in coloured crispy shells to look like coloured stones. Unfortunately, the long black was fairly weak and insipid. The Deli inside promised good things too, so I'm willing to give this place another go.
Hansel & Gretal: Although still Bearing the name and quirky faux Swiss décor of it's parent chocolatier Hansel & Gretal in Phillip, it is now being run by the most charming (?Thai) couple. The homemade savory pies, soups and cakes look pretty damn good! The coffee here is fairly average quality, not bad by any means, but not the World's Best. The price is one of the lowest in Canberra at $2.80. This isn't low in itself, however the 'Buy 4 Get 1 Free' card does make this pretty cheap - uh, good value. This is immaterial really, as are the comfy couches in the sun in comparison to the great friendly service and effusive greeting from the owners. This is why it has become a favourite of Aki & Bob and I.
Musica e': After my most recent trip to northern Italy, this place looked really promising. Modern, pared down, with a decisively modern northern Italian feel. Closed on Monday's, and closing fairly early in the afternoon, getting in to test was a bit difficult. The coffee is generally good, although it has been bitter on occasion. The hard wooden floors and hard surfaces means that it can be very noisy, even there is only one other couple. The cost is right at the top end of Canberra coffee prices @ $3.50 for a standard cup. I haven't written it off, but it fails to live up to my high expectations.
Black Pepper :
Splendour, Jamison:Ricardo's, Jamison:Café in the Garden Centre:Calvary Hospital:Deli Downstairs:North Canberra Tilley Devine's, Lyneham Sfoglia, DicksonCafé, Dickson Bernadette's, Ainslie National Museum of Australia Hudson's @ Botanic Gardens City Regio
Da Cellini: A busy, buzzing place over an extended lunchtime. This was the third visit in recent times, and the coffee has been consistently excellent. No quibbles either from Mr Spendthrift at the higher than usual charge of $3.30, the coffee was so good. There is outdoor seating which will be better when the weather warms up; and a large, boxy comfy couch with a large coffee table which is pleasant for coffee and chat. There is an interesting looking Italian bistro menu which looks worth perusing. Street parking is available at meters by the door, which is a bonus for a city fringe location. The service was pretty good too!Coffee excellent .$3.30 each coffee. Comfy couch. Outdoor seating Interesting untried Italian bistro menu.Efficient service Meter parking .
Kaldo There is a fast food-style café- at Belconnen Markets by this name, although I can't comment on it. This partitioned area of the foyer of the National Bank at the corner of London Circuit is obviously mainly to cater for the take-away office trade from nearby Civic West offices. Despite the basic surroundings, a bar adjacent to the window with a couple of stools, the coffee is good, and worthy of a diversion if wanting a take-away when in the vicinity. Coffee comes in two sizes, and the low rent is reflected in in the prices.
StarbucksCity Markets DeliThe Deck, Regatta Point The Last Post, War Memorial National Library National Gallery Caffe' LellaSiloWeston ParkBlue Olive Red Belly Black Postiano
SouthsideCurtin Milkbar: coffee $2.70 quality OK, but not great. Both the cappuccino and latte' come with a towering soufflé' head of foam, as incongruous and dated as a pointy 1950's training bra. My long black was of an OK standard. Despite this, the place does a constant lunchtime trade, and sitting inside escaping the wind I could see why. The Curtin Milk and Pizza Bar is a throwback to the 1970's or before (if pizza's were in Australia before then). A glass cabinet displays jelly frogs and sweets; a handwritten sign offers bags of mixed lollies for 50c & $1 (more than my pocket money would allow). Homemade and homely cakes and slices (cornflake biscuits for example), top the sandwich bar, where from my Formica table viewpoint I could watch sliced white bread become liberally spread with chemical yellow margarine and piled with an inch of fillings such as curried egg before being cut into triangle quarters. More white bread is filled with slices of processed ham and cheese before being toasted. This really is a time warp experience!
Deek's Bakery: A new kid on the block which opened around the beginning of 2006. Consistency seems to be an issue, as I have had some excellent coffee there, and also some which is fairly mediocre. $3 standard NimitabelCjharvey's Coffee BarA find. Good music great atmosphere good coffee. Bob's rating 3 1/2. Tasteful, slightly quirky . $3. Lons black no bitterness , thick crema, but lacking in some body in the cup.Hughe BakeryGuru WodenHansel & Gretal Café. Gaudi